Have you ever read the book “An Island to Oneself” by Tom Neale? If not you should absolutely get yourself a copy and read it. It tells the story of how in the 1960’s a man went and lived all by himself on a deserted tropical island. It is a great read.
Fast forward to 2016, and there is a dog doing the very same thing. Living happily all by himself on a deserted tropical island. We had the pleasure of meeting him.
In 2015, we were very kindly invited to sail on a friends yacht in New Caledonia. Our friend Emily had already visited the Island and had met the dog and was keen to take us back. We went to the supermarket and stocked up on dog food.
The following day we sailed from Noumea to the Baie du Prony, about 25 nautical miles on the Southern tip of Grand Terre, and picked up a mooring on the North Western corner of Ile Casy. There was a jetty there, and sitting on the end of the jetty was a big brown dog.
We scrambled in to the dinghy and headed over to meet him. With no name we decided to call him Monsieur Chien – Mr Dog (In French) we decided that he probably didn’t understand English so we spoke to him in French.
He was a lovely big dog, looked old, but healthy. He appeared to be living on the Island all by himself. There was no one else here, just an old deserted resort covered in vines and falling over.
He was very friendly and took us for a walk around the island. He trotted on ahead, occasionally stopping to look behind and check that we were still following. Every now and then he would go off in to the bush and stalk something in the undergrowth.
Ile Casy is stunning, lush forest with coconut palms, a high hill in the middle with the mineral rich orange soils, and a ring of golden sand and crystal clear water around the edge. Monsieur Chien waded out in to the water, watching intently below – looking like he was fishing.
It takes about an hour and a half to walk around the Island, and the sun was going down as we made it back to the boat. We happily ‘paid’ our wonderful guide with a tin of the best gourmet dog food you can buy at the supermarket before waving goodbye.
We wondered how such a lovely dog had come to be living all by himself on an island. I wrote an article about our travels in Boating NZ Magazine (Click here to read it) and I mentioned Monsieur Chien. The following month there was a letter to the editor from some people in Australia who had met him a couple of years before hand.
Fast forward to 2016, and we were once again invited back to sail on the beautiful Esther Louise. We were of course all very keen to go and see Monsieur Chien again, and once again we stocked up on dog food for him.
One night we met a guy from New Zealand – Ian, who lives on his boat in Noumea. He came aboard for a drink and we got chatting, and asked him if he knew Monsieur Chien. “Oh you mean Moose!” He said.
Ian told us a story of how when the resort was operating, there was a caretaker there who had a puppy – Moose. About 10 or so years ago, the resort closed down, abandoned. The caretaker packed up his things and went to leave. He called the dog to get in to the boat to leave, but he wouldn’t come.
So he went to pick him up and put him in the boat, but he jumped straight out again. So he tried a third time to take him away, this time holding him in the boat until they were far enough away from the shore, but Moose jumped out again and swam ashore.
The caretaker was getting a bit annoyed by this stage, so he left the dog there and decided to come back again the following day to try again. But the same thing happened. The caretaker thought that obviously the dog did NOT want to leave, and so, he left him there.
And so apparently that his how Monsieur Chien or Moose came to be living on this Island all by himself!
Well the story certainly seemed plausible to us, and actually made us feel a bit happier knowing that it was essentially his choice to be there, and that he hadn’t just been dropped off and forgotten one day. Perhaps he has never left the island in his life!
Once again we sailed down to see him, and there he was sitting at the end of the jetty. It was blowing quite hard, so this time we decided to pick up a mooring in a more sheltered spot a little further around the Island. We called out to him as we sailed past “Nous somme ici!” (We are here!)
No sooner had we picked up the mooring, he appeared on the beach in front of the boat. He must have hot footed it over the hill to get to us! We quickly jumped in the dinghy to go and see him.
He seemed a bit older and thinner and his eyes looked a little glazed like old dog’s eyes do. But he appeared genuinely pleased to see us, and he happily trotted on ahead giving his the full tour of the Island again.
We stopped on the jetty to feed him in the bowl that had been left there, and said our goodbyes in case he wanted to stay there and entertain the passengers on a catamaran who had just pulled up.
But no, he continued on with us back to the boat and we said our goodbyes to him as he curled up in the sand.
The following morning we had planned to go ashore again and give him another tin of food, but the wind was howling and we were on a tight timeframe to get to the Isle of Pines.
So we left the dog food on board Esther Louise, and hope that her owner Jay has time to get back there sometime during his stay in New Caledonia to pass it on to our friend. Let us know if you get there and say ‘bonjour!’ to him from us.